Archive for the ‘Et cetera’ Category

Congrats to a few members of the BlogCampaigning crew:

The official notice of Heather Morrison’s new position at Sequentia Environics went out (over the newswire, no less) last week, saying that she’ll “supervise the daily operations and performances of client service teams.” A good move indeed; Sequentia is  a digital communications firm that “focuses on the online relationships between companies and their customers.” It’s also part of the Environics Group.

In other celebratory news, Jens “Schredd” Schroeder sent me an email last week to say that he handed in his doctoral thesis last Monday. “I can’t really believe it’s over… ” he wrote. “But I suppose you never reach the point where you’re convinced that it’s the right moment to hand in a project of this size.” The paper is titled ‘Killer Games’ versus ‘We Will Fund Violence’ :The Perception of Digital Games and Mass Media in Germany and Australia, and Jens is hoping to make it available here on BlogCampaigning sometime soon.

-Parker

Last week, I realized that there was an error with BlogCampaigning’s RSS feed. Although some feedreaders were still able to grab the content, others were getting XML Parsing Errors.

As I often do when I get a warning message I don’t quite understand, I Google it. Chances are, someone else has had the same problem as me and figured it out.

Quick Online Tips helped me fix the problem. The error was caused by some blank spaces in one of my .php files. Since I often muck around in the theme, this could easily have been caused by me or one of the plugins I added.

Going through thousands of lines of code didn’t seem like a good way to spend my afternoon, so I installed the Fix RSS Plugin. It scanned all my code, and quickly fixed the error. While the appeal for a $4.99 donation to the creator of the plugin is the first time I’ve seen something like that in WordPress, I think it is worth the money.

The lesson to learn here is that even if you think your site is working perfectly, other people might be having problems with it. After making any major changes, you need to thoroughly check to make sure everything works (or have a good team of writers that occasionally check things for you).

Thanks for reading BlogCampaigning—and if you notice any other errors, let me know!

Cheers,

-Parker

Over the past few months, I’ve really come to enjoy reading Timothy B. Lee’s blog. The computer programmer, writer and think-tank worker bee is now pursuing a PhD in computer science, and is blogging his thoughts about “bottom-up” thinking.

What is bottom-up thinking? Its not something racy, nor is it about chugging beer. As Tim says:

“I’m convinced that Silicon Valley’s fundamental strength is the fact that it embodies what I’ll call a bottom-up perspective on the world. The last couple of decades have brought us the dominance of the open Internet, the increasing success of free software, and the emergence of the free culture movement as an important social and political force. More generally, Silicon Valley is a place with extremely low barriers to entry, a culture of liberal information sharing, and a respect for the power of individual entrepreneurs.”

For the most part, Tim’s posts have reinforced some of my own opinions about the way things should work. He has also occasionally caused me to second-guess my own actions; but never as much as a few weeks ago when he wrote a critique of the Public Relations industry (“The PR Firm As Anti-Signal“).

“PR people seem to be floundering in this new environment,” he writes, before going on to explain that hiring a PR firm sends the message that your company “doesn’t get the web.” Tim feels that if your product or company is good enough, you don’t need PR. People will talk about you, write about you, and do business with you. It was particularly tough to swallow considering I’d just made the move from Product Management to Public Relations (the two really aren’t as different as you’d think).

However, upon closer inspection, it seems that his complaint is about PR companies that also don’t “get the web”. You know, the kind that we always complain about, the ones that send the cookie-cutter pitches to thousands of reporters on the very off-chance that they might write about their client.

What Tim doesn’t understand is that PR isn’t just about sending pitches. Its about communicating.

Tim is fortunate enough to be able to write clearly, and I’m going to guess that this isn’t a skill that every computer sciences PhD candidate has. In fact, I bet that Tim is a bit of a renaissance-man rarity in his world.

But at the same time, there aren’t very many Public Relations professionals that know much about computers (seriously, as a group, we’re not as tech-savvy as we like to think we are).

Computer programmers (coders, developers, etc.) need PR pros to help them tell people about their product, explain what it does and communicate with the user base. They need designers to make it look nice. They need sales people to sell it.

And the patent lawyers that Tim talks about, the ones that he recommends start a blog instead of getting their PR people to offer to comment on various issues? If they’re really experts, they’re probably too busy with cases to start a blog. But a PR team could help lawyers set one up, and teach them how to write concise posts that draw on their knowledge but require a communicator’s skill to make them more palatable to a wider audience.

As I heard someone say about this same issue a year or so ago, “Sure I can paint my house myself, but why wouldn’t I just hire professionals who can do a better job?”

Tim, if you read this I hope you give PR a second chance. We’re not perfect, but we’re learning. And there are some public relations practitioners who are redefining the profession using the bottom-up thinking you preach.

-Parker

I think that anyone who has been blogging for a significant amount of time understands the concept of blog fatigue. You get tired thinking up new posts all the time; you wonder where it is all leading. It has happened to me a few times.

In fact, when I first started to write the title to this post, I thought it felt awfully familiar. Then I remembered that I wrote a similar post almost exactly two years ago (“BlogCampaigning Is Back“) where I said that “Jens has been trying to sort out his life back in Germany, and Espen pretty much went AWOL in Norway.”

Some things never change, eh?

The good news is that after a month of contemplation, I’ve added a fresh coat of paint coding to the ol’ blog, I’ve got some good posts lined up, and we’ve even got a new author starting in the next week or so.

Added on to the fact that Heather and I both started new jobs, Jens is almost finished his thesis and it seems like a pretty good time to get a fresh start.

Thanks for continuing to read BlogCampaigning!

-Parker

It looks like Left 4 Dead 2 has been banned in Australia. The reason:

[C]lose in attacks cause copious amounts of blood spray and splatter, decapitations and limb dismemberment as well as locational damage where contact is made to the enemy which may reveal skeletal bits and gore.

This was not deemed suitable for 15-year-olds.

Despite the average Australian gamer being 30, the country is the only Western democracy not to embrace an adult rating for video games.

This is the result of a 1996 piece of legislation that followed a moral panic over the Sega CD game Night Trap. It was basically grounded in the belief that only kids and teens play games. (For more info see this thesis [PDF] and this excellent article.)

In 2009, Aussie gamers still have to endure the result of this obsolete thinking (which was never accurate in the first place).

The sole person responsible for maintaining Australia’s status as one of the few Western countries without an adult rating is West Australia’s attorney general, Michael Atkinson. He has plenty of reasons, none of them overly convincing—at least not to the vast majority of the Australian population.

Several games have been banned before or—in the case of Fallout 3—had to be reworked to suit the criteria. But Left 4 Dead 2 is the first high profile title to endure this fate.

Given that other highly violent zombie titles like Dead Rising (banned from sale in Germany) and House of the Dead Overkill (not released in Germany) passed the rating process without problems, this will surely lead to more intense discussions about the future of Australia’s censorship system. Hopefully for the better.

-Jens

On the weekend I met two former Australian lecturers of mine – Jason Nelson and Ben (whose last name neither Parker nor I can remember) – when the conversation turned to the demise of newspapers. Ben’s argument was that they probably would stay around, after all we’re still listening to the radio. Something about that argument felt wrong, even though at that moment I couldn’t articulate it.

Thinking about it more, I realised that this view is very ahistoric. When radio started, people would schedule their lives around it. They would wait for a certain programme to be broadcasted to gather the whole family around it and consciously absorb what the wireless had to say.

Then television arrived and took over exactly that role. Now people were staying at home to watch evening shows and sometimes were even attired to underline the specialness of the moment. It was like going to the theatre, only in one’s own home.

Radio couldn’t compete with that. Instead it started to serve a different purpose: It served as background noise, something that tootles along while you’re in the office or driving to work. No one scheduled his life around the broadcast schedule anymore, instead the interchangeable format radio became the norm. “Five songs in a row with no ads or talking!” That function is certainly different to the one of the printed press whose products you’d have to consciously read in order to make meaning of them.

As Parker pointed out this doesn’t mean that media is dying, it’s just changing. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, even though traditional media certainly serves its purposes; e.g. it helps to bring important developments to the conscience of the public by helping to spread them. It’s a catalyst. Without you never might have noticed that Facebook changed it terms of use – not everyone is reading tech blogs after all.

Then again this isn’t a process that couldn’t be democratised with the help of internet, the best examples being sites like digg or reddit. Here the users decide which information enters the front page which in turn acts like a catalyst again (just like sites iliketotallyloveit.com serve as means of democratisation of something as elitist as ‘style’)

These ‘democratic catalysts’ certainly aren’t without problems. Power users might dominate which content gets voted for, fads become more important than news and a net-savvy, educated elite could dominate the political discourse and use these sites like an echo-chamber.

But the same could be said of newspapers: They certainly aren’t free of interest but rely heavily on advertising; human interest matters more than serious reporting; again an educated elite perpetuates world views (otherwise there wouldn’t be conservative and liberal papers) Which begs the question: Why not have ‘democratic catalysts’ of different political nature? The certainly is room for a conservative counterpart to reddit.

-Jens

What’s up with the other end of the world all of a sudden? First Australia plans to spend millions of dollars on an inane net fiter that is perfectly suited to censor free speech and would make one of the slowest internets of the Western world even slower; then New Zealand contemplates to introduce a draconian copyright law.

And now this: New Zealand’s chief government censor has called for the prosecution of parents who give their children access to violent video games. Anyone letting his children play GTA could face up to three months in prison or a fine of $10,000.

His reasoning:

They might think the offence is silly, but it ain’t… That’s what the law says, but… you’re not going to have police officers in every bedroom… There would certainly be some shock value to prosecuting a parent who gives their under-18 child access to a restricted game. It would send out a message that the enforcement agency means business.

I think the word ‘game’ can mislead people for sure. It’s not checkers. For the first time in history, kids are more savvy with technology than parents… parents need to get up to speed on the digital divide. They need to look at what their kids are playing and doing…

It should be the pleasure in being able to sleep at night knowing that you have done the right thing by your kids. That should be the motivating factor.

As Destructoid points out, this proposal would make videogames even more tightly restricted than alcohol, since it would apply to what happens within the family home. So while it’s legal for a child to imbibe booze behind closed doors, a medium whose links to violence at the end of the day cannot not be verified is not. Cheers to that!

-Jens

A little follow-up to Parkers post about independent game development. Last week I attended the Dissecta talk at the State Library of Victoria. Damian Scott, founder and CEO of Primal Clarity, gave an insight into the scope and potential that the Australian independent game scene has to offer.

Primal Clarity are currently working on Imperial League, a violent first person sports game based on the Unreal engine. They’re planing to release the game for free. Then after one year, once everyone is – hopefully – hooked they’re going to introduce leagues and access to statistics. Charging for this feature is how they plan to make their money.

This move is inspired by the organisation of real-world sports: It only becomes real fun once your team beats the others. It’s also a perfect example of how to utilise an add-on content model, in which the initial game experience is free but you can buy upgrades or customization for a price.

-Jens

I’m on my way Australia again. After a twelve hour flight from Frankfurt I currently get to spend some time on the Singapore airport, getting ready for another nine hours of flying.

So what brings me to the antipodes? Mainly research for my Ph.D. (which, I might add, is financially supported by the German Academic Exchange Service).

As some readers might know I’m looking into the differences of digital game discourses in Germany and Australia and how these relate to the socio-cultural history of both countries – an old “Kulturnation” such as Germany obviously has a different attitude towards mass media – and therefore digital games – than a young nation such as Australia.

One part of the plan is to make the work I’ve completed so far more coherent and factor in some of the advice fellow students gave me or that I received at conferences.

Moreover, I’m planning to look deeper into game discourses in Australian media; something that I obviously have done already but something that I feel I need to elaborate on – especially now that I had a chance to do some more research in Germany that brought my attention to angles I didn’t consider before.

E.g. discourses about digital games in Germany until the early 1990s were often embedded in a broader discussion about the (supposedly negative) impact of computers. In no Western country the fear of rationalisation, surveillance and reduction to binary thinking by means of cold, soulless technology was as pronounced as in Germany.

Accordingly computers and digital games, similar to film, were confronted with antimodern, anti-capitalistic, anti-American sentiments, independent of their content. They were regarded as escapist trash that threatened national cultural assets as well as creativity and fantasy, two of the main pillars of artistic autonomy.

Will I find similar patterns in Australia? From what I’ve gathered so far, probably not. Australia always showed a very high acceptance of mass media and technology and “has yet to experience a moral panic generated by a politician around games to score some cheap political points with the conservative lobby.”

This is a quote by my second supervisior, Brett Hutchins of Monash University whom I’m looking forward to meeting to further discuss my work. Moreover I’m planing to see my old lecturer and friend Jason Nelson who always supported me generously; other people I’d like to meet include Helen Stuckey, Games Curator at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image and some members of the Australian game industry, but that will eventually depend on how the research goes.

If you happen to be a reader of blogcampaigning and live either on the Gold Coast or Melbourne drop me a line because it would be great to meet you too!

Ok, I gotta go, several more hours of hanging around at this aiport demand my attention…

-Jens

Bad genes? Too bad. In what is possibly the world’s first case of gene discrimination, Australians were refused insurance because their genetic heritage looked like it could potentially cost insurance companies a lot of money.

When I read stuff like this I get the feeling that the future really has begun. Where’s my hovercar?!

-Jens

What’s the deal with this website?
You're reading BlogCampaigning. We write about public relations, social media, video games, marketing and pretty much whatever we feel is important. We've been around since August, 2006. Right now, It's mostly written by Parker Mason.